Maryland and Virginia Tech are both trending, but in opposite directions

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I’ll admit it — I love tempo-free stats.

The work that Kenpom does is great to use as an tool for analysis when breaking down specific teams and matchups. Two or three years ago, I probably wouldn’t have said the same thing.

I’m only a partial believer, however. I am still a firm believer in the eye test. There is a lot to learn about a basketball team that doesn’t come across in a box score, and I think that the insights gleaned from watching a team play can be just as valuable as efficiency numbers. Effective field goal percentage doesn’t tell you why Pitt was able to dissect Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and why Pitt’s game plan might not be effective for a team like UConn.

But whether you subscribe to tempo free stats or buy into the eye test, we can all agree that Maryland is a good basketball team. Heading into Thursday night’s matchup with Virginia Tech, the Terps were 14th in the efficiency ratings largely because they were the best defensive team in the country.

They also competed with, and lost tough games too, all six of their quality opponents. It takes a good basketball team to be up 12 on Villanova in Philly when ten minutes left in the game.

The problem?

No matter how good you look and no matter how impressive your stats are, the only figures that truly matter are wins and losses, which is why Maryland’s 74-57 defeat at the hands of the Hokies is such a big deal.

The Terps are in a bad position. Their best win is against Charleston. Their only ACC win came against Wake Forest. They are 11-7 on the season, 1-3 in the ACC, and only have one more chance to garner a marquee win — when Duke visits College Park on February 2nd.

Their young back court turns the ball over too much and they get far too much inconsistent play from the veterans that are supposed to be Jordan William’s supporting cast.

This is a good basketball team, but unless the Terps do something to turn this season around — and do it soon — they will be heading to the NIT.

As for the Hokies, the job that Seth Greenberg has done with this team is commendable. This is a group that has been massacred by injury. Their second and third best front court players have missed the entire season. Their second best scorer is done for the year with a broken foot.

But the younger guys are stepping up (see Erick Green’s 24 point performance tonight), Malcolm Delaney is playing terrific basketball, and the Hokies look like a team that can compete in the ACC. If they hadn’t collapsed after building a 16 point lead at North Carolina last week, Tech would currently be tied for first in the conference.

A month ago, I would have laughed in your face — and possibly even slapped you — if you had said that to me.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.